"Neutrality" the Russian Way. Here’s Who May Be Heading to the Olympics This Summer

"Neutrality" the Russian Way. Here’s Who May Be Heading to the Olympics This Summer

How “neutral” are the Russian and Belarusian athletes set to compete in the Olympics this summer under the “neutral“ flag?

The Summer Olympic Games will be held in Paris from July 26th to August 11th. Among the attendants featured will be Russian and Belarusian athletes.

This follows the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which banned the two belligerent countries from participating in the Olympics but spared their athletes—allowing them to compete under a neutral flag.

The IOC has laid out its list of guidelines for “neutral” athletes. One ruling said that “Athletes who actively support the war will not be eligible to be entered or to compete.” The IOC will be evaluating athletes based on their connection to their political views—and rightfully so. The Russian and Belarusian governments are heavily sanctioned for their involvement in Europe’s largest war since WW2.

Requirements for athletes to compete in the Olympics include not supporting Russia's war in Ukraine, not being affiliated with the military or security forces, and complying with anti-doping regulations. It should be noted that sports are an effective tool for spreading political propaganda and projecting state power. It’s part of the game. But what we will try to demonstrate here is that these "neutral" athletes eagerly support a war of genocide. 

These athletes are set to participate in the Olympics if they pass the vetting process:

Vladislav Larin

Vladislav Larin is another Tae Kwan Doe champion who is set to be a "neutral" Russian athlete at the 2024 Olympics. In 2023, he was filmed as part of a funding campaign for the Russian Army, calling on Russian citizens to make donations to the army. He was already banned from the 2023 World Tae Kwan Doe Championship for his outright support for Russia’s war.

Ukraine’s Internal Security Service (SBU) has considered opening a case against Larin for financing terrorism, but so far no such case has been made. For the fundraiser, which raised around 175,000 Rubles (~$2000) he made his appeal:

"Friends, let's unite and help the mobilized guys who are defending our homeland."

Maksim Khramtsov

Maksim Khramstov is a gold medal winner for Tae Kwan Doe at the 2020 Olympics. He is set to return to Paris as an individual athlete under a neutral flag. However, his attendance is in direct conflict with the guidelines on neutrality that the IOC has laid out.

Khramstov is a member of the Russian army and received an honorary diploma from the Russian Ministry of Defense at the end of 2022. He expressed his support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, using the "Z" symbol in his social media posts.

Additionally, Khramtsov liked posts by Russian mixed martial artist; Vladimir Mineev, who joined the Russian Army to fight against Ukraine. In his posts, Mineev urges other athletes to join him in fighting Ukraine—which Khramtsov’s account had liked.

Khramtsov also liked pro-war and anti-Ukrainian posts by the head coach of the Russian taekwondo team, Bolat Izutdinov, on Instagram. In these posts, Izutdinov repeats Russian propaganda narratives, supports the war against Ukraine, and personally backs Putin.

Madina Taimazova

Madina Taimazova, the bronze medalist in Judo at the Tokyo Olympics, was approved by the International Judo Federation as a neutral athlete. However, in 2022, she is seen standing in front of a piece of state propaganda featuring Vladimir Putin and reading “For Putin, For Victory, For the People.” The typography of the image purposely includes the letter “Z,” which has become a symbol of support for Russia’s invasion. 

In April 2022, Taimazova participated in a state-sponsored Judo event that would later be used for propaganda purposes. The event was called "Masterclass for Young Judokas from Donbas," in which Ukrainian children who had just recently been kidnapped and taken to Russia would be given a day of instruction by the “neutral athlete.” On the backs of some children’s uniforms, the abbreviation "DNR" could be seen.

Inal Tasoev

Another Russian judo champion, Inal Tasoev, will participate as a neutral athlete in Paris. He holds the rank of ensign in the Russian Army, comparable to a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. 

Tasoev follows and interacts with the Russian occupier Vladislav Kachmazov on Instagram. He liked his photos which include him in military uniform with the "Z" symbol featured in plain view, in active fighting in Ukraine, and later meeting in person with Kachmazov after he returned from Ukraine. After an investigation, Kachmazov's page was deleted from Instagram.

Tassoiev also liked a video on Instagram featuring another occupier who was killed in Ukraine and a post featuring Soslan Didarov, a political figure in the Republic of South Ossetia – the result of a Russian-led proxy war inside of Georgia in 2008. 

Tatiana Minina

Tatiana Minina also liked pro-war and anti-Ukrainian posts by the head coach of the Russian taekwondo team, Bolat Izutdinov, on Instagram. Additionally, Minina thanked the Russian Ministry of Defense on Instagram for a medal and was awarded by the sanctioned governor of Russia’s Chelyabinsk Region, Oleksander Teksler, who publicly approves of Russia's war and genocide policies.

Mimina is also directly affiliated with the Russian military; she is a member of the Central Sports Club of the Army and holds the rank of ensign. 

Vanesa Kaladzinskaya

Vanesa Kaladzinskaya is a Belarusian wrestler who won a bronze medal at the 2020 Olympics. She will compete as a "neutral" wrestler in Paris in 2024. 

On January 9th, 2024, she violated the terms of her neutrality by participating in a propaganda event with Belarusian dictator Aleksander Lukashenko. Last year, she received a license to participate in the Olympic Games. Kaladzinskaya is also a wrestling instructor for the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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